Carly Simon – I Get Along Without You Very Well
The standards album has become an emergency career rescue stand-by in recent years, but when Carly Simon released Torch in 1981 it was something that hadn’t really been done by a contemporary pop star – and it remains perhaps the best example of the genre, probably because of what was going on in Carly’s life at the time.
It’s almost impossible to state just how huge Carly Simon was in the 1970s. Possibly the greatest female singer-songwriter America has ever produced, her songs – among them That’s the Way I’ve Always Heard it Should Be, Anticipation and of course You’re So Vain – soundtracked the lives of an entire generation. With 1975’s Attitude Dancing she also sort-of invented voguing, a full fifteen years before Madonna, and in 1977 she recorded the quintessential Bond theme, Nobody Does It Better.
As the 1980s dawned things were changing for Carly – her two most recent albums, Spy and Come Upstairs, had under-performed commercially, and her eight year marriage to James Taylor – for America, a pairing akin to royalty – was beginning to break up. Perhaps that’s why Torch sounds so exquisitely tortured, and never more so than on its stand-out track, a cover of Hoagy Carmichael‘s 1939 standard I Get Along Without You Very Well.
If you’ve ever wondered what the sound of somebody’s heart breaking is like, this is it. Accompanied by only a simple piano, strings and underlying synth line, Carly’s voice soars through the lyrics (based on a poem by Jane Brown Thompson) with an impossible sense of sadness and denial that very few singers can carry off. I have absolutely no idea how she was able to get through the recording session without breaking down – I’m sobbing just listening to it as I write this.
I Get Along Without You Very Well was never released as a single – perhaps rightly so, for it almost feels intrusive to listen to it. But for being one of the most desperately beautiful things I’ve ever heard, it deserves its place here.
For Carly, Torch seemed to allow her to get a few things out of her system, and by 1986 she was back at the top of her game with the world conquering Coming Around Again, and she remains a force of nature to this day.
Entered chart: was not released
Who could sing this today and have a hit? There’s only one person who could: Adele.